AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) Reviews and overview

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An American Werewolf in London is a 1981 American comedy horror feature film written and directed by John Landis (Innocent Blood; Schlock). The movie stars David NaughtonJenny Agutter (Child’s Play 2; Dominique), Griffin Dunne and John Woodvine.

American tourists David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) are on a backpacking holiday in Northern England. Following an awkwardly tense visit to a village pub, The Slaughtered Lamb, the pair venture deep into the moors at night.

They are attacked by a werewolf, which results in Jack’s death and David being taken to a London hospital where he is cared for and taken in by attractive nurse Alex Price (Jenny Agutter).

Through apparitions of his dead friend and disturbing dream sequences, David becomes informed that he is a werewolf and will transform at the next full moon…

Reviews [may contain spoilers – click links to read more]:
“As much as American Werewolf in London is about a wolf, it’s also about a young man whose road to adulthood was detoured. It’s a human story about grief and acceptance and everything that comes between. David must sacrifice himself to save others and help Jack and the other victims rest. David’s willingness to kill the wolf completes his transition from college kid to adult.” Adventures in Poor Taste

” …the special effects are just as remarkable as in The Howling (1980) – and his attacks on sundry victims are handled unexpectedly straight. To some extent, this means that the film suffers from a split personality. But at times the two styles cone fruitfully into conjunction…” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror, Aurum Press, 1993

“Sometimes engaging but not always successful mixture of comedy and horror […] Occasionally effective, despite itself, its incredible make-up effects broke new ground at the time.” Howard Maxford, The A-Z of Horror Films, Batsford, 1996

“When you actually analyse the film, there’s not a huge amount of plot going on – man gets attacked by werewolf, man becomes werewolf, man kills lots of people, man gets shot. But as with many true classics, it’s the little things that count. For one thing, American Werewolf isn’t just scary, it’s bloody funny and hugely quotable as well.” British Horror Films

“The transformation sequence is a truly amazing piece of work. The modifications to the werewolf myth are very interesting; I particularly like the fact that the werewolf is haunted by the limbo-consigned spirits of his victims. I think the movie also shows real cleverness in handling cliches…” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“Some people complain about the wonky tone, but it’s always worked magnificently for me! It’s chock full of great British actors, it’s funny, it’s gory, the photography is nice, the trick effects are glorious! It’s logically challenged at times, certainly (ha ha, where are David’s parents?) but a marvelous picture really…” Ha, ha it’s Burl!

“One can detect in this unique horror movie the seeds of the post-modernism that would eventually dominate the genre in the 1990s with the Scream trilogy, particularly in American Werewolf‘s coupling of wiseacre humor, directorial homage, and the intense violence and gore. Yet it isn’t necessarily for this reason that the Landis film remains a neo-classic, and the best of the 1980s werewolf pack.” John Kenneth Muir, Horror Films of the 1980s, McFarland, 2007 | |

An American Werewolf in London was innovative at what it did during its day, although I fall short of calling it the all-time great genre classic that many were certain it was at the time. It has a story that feels like it needs more to its telling but instead arrives too quickly at a downbeat and abrupt ending.” Moria

An American Werewolf in London seems curiously unfinished as if director John Landis spent all his energy on spectacular set pieces and then didn’t want to bother with things like transitions, character development, or an ending. The movie has sequences that are spellbinding, and then long stretches when nobody seems sure what’s going on.” Roger Ebert

“John Landis’s film is dry, sly and endlessly quotable (‘a naked American man stole my balloons!’). As an added bonus, the special effects still look remarkable, even in the age of CGI: there’s something about the look of real latex skin stretching over metal-frame bones that no amount of processing power can possibly replicate.” Time Out London

“It has a great “moon” themed soundtrack, above-average transformation/creature effects by Rick Baker, lots of morbid comedy (like Dunne’s first undead appearance) and some really wacky nightmare sequences (some werewolf soldiers kill Naughton’s family with machine guns!). Solid entertainment and highly recommended.” The Video Graveyard

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